ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A grandson of the “father of the Iditarod” is in the lead on the race’s third day.
Thirty-five-year-old Ryan Redington of Wasilla, grandson of Joe Redington, pulled into the village of Nikolai (NIK-oh-leye) just after 8 a.m. Tuesday in the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Nikolai is the first Alaska Native village on the route from Willow to Nome.
Redington started the race with 16 dogs and reached the checkpoint with 13.
Sixty-seven teams began the race Sunday.
The trail winds over frozen lakes and rivers, through mountain passes and over trails once used for delivery of mail and supplies to mining communities.
Reigning champion Mitch Seavey was listed in second place. Seavey left the Rohn checkpoint just before 7:30 p.m. Monday for the 75-mile (120-kilometer) leg to Nikolai.
Competitors took to the snowy trail as the Iditarod kicked off Sunday in Willow, Alaska following a trying year for the annual event.
Musher Cody Strathe of Fairbanks and his 16-dog team were the first to take off across frozen Willow Lake, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Anchorage.
Before taking off on the trail, Strathe said he was excited to be the first to leave. He said he had a harmonica in his pocket and he plans to teach himself to play during the race.
“I have plenty of time while I’m out there,” he said, adding he will play “bad harmonica music” to his dogs along the way.
Sixty-seven teams are signed up for the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) trek over mountain ranges, frozen rivers and other dangerous terrain. The winner is expected to reach the finish in the old Gold Rush town of Nome in about nine days.
The race is taking place after organizers spent much of the year dealing with multiple problems, including a champion’s dog doping scandal, the loss of a major sponsor and escalating pressure from animal rights activists.
Iditarod officials acknowledge they’ve weathered a challenging year. But they say it’s been a learning experience, not a sign the race faces an uncertain future as some critics believe.
On Sunday, it was all about the race ahead.
Anja Radano of Talkeetna, Alaska, said she was excited to run her first Iditarod with her team, including two dogs named after carnival rides, Skeeball and Tilt-A-Whirl.
“My mind, personally, is just that I get out on the trail and hopefully, I don’t forget anything important,” said Radano, who is originally from Germany.
The race had its traditional ceremonial start Saturday with a short sprint through downtown Anchorage that gave fans a chance to get up close to the teams.
A dog on the team of Norwegian musher Lars Monsen got loose and bolted from his trailer kennel before Saturday’s event. The dog, Hudson, was later found and was securely leashed in Willow as Monsen geared up, with just one thing on his mind heading into his third Iditarod.
“It’s just going out on the trail and having fun and keeping the dogs happy and making the right moves along the way,” he said. “Not getting too eager in the beginning.”
Competitors are vying for a total purse of $500,000 in the 46th running of the race, with the winner’s share to be determined later in the race. The winner also receives a new truck.